The ongoing flood and Covid-19 pandemic have caused a double blow to the exports of vegetable, fruits and other perishable items.
High freight charges of air cargo during the pandemic as well as sky-rocketing prices of veggies in the domestic market due to the flood have severely affected the shipments, said insiders.
"The Europe-bound shipments have seriously been hampered due to the high air freight charges," Arif Azad Prince, managing director of Masawa Agro Ltd, told the FE.
He said that more than 90 per cent of the exports to the EU countries, specially to UK, are shipped by air. The freight charges increased to US$3.8 to $4.5 per kg during the pandemic as compared to at best $1.8 a kg before the pandemic.
Besides, the prices of vegetables like brinjal, eddo, pointed gourd, teasel gourd, bitter gourd and pumpkin trebled in last one and half months in the domestic market.
"We are becoming less competitive in the EU region due to the higher air freight charges and pricier local produces," he said.
He said that it takes an exporter to spend Tk 500-520 to send per kg of brinjal to the EU while the Indian businesses can deliver it at 40 per cent less price than us.
Mr. Prince, however, said the freight charges of ocean-going vessels are almost static at $ 550 per container for countries like Malaysia.
He said that exports to non-European countries might remain normal this year amid rising demand for potato and cabbage.
According to him, the air freight charges have increased due to the substantially reduced number of flights amid the pandemic.
According to the Department of Agricultural Marketing (DAM), the prices of vegetables witnessed 60-80 per cent hike in the city in last one and half weeks.
The prices of some exportable items like brinjal have surged to Tk 80-100 a kg due to the flood while eddo Tk 60-70, pointed gourd Tk 70, yard-long bean Tk 80-90, carrot Tk 100-110, tomato Tk120-130, leafy Tk 20-40 a bunch, said DAM.
The two-month long flood damaged more than 10,000 hectares of veggie fields in 37 districts this year, said the agriculture ministry. The water-logging in many districts is also affecting early winter crops farming, it said added.
Bangladesh exports more than 70 varieties of vegetables to 53 countries like Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and UK, according to Bangladesh Fruit, Vegetable and Allied Products Exporters' Association (BFVAPEA).
President of BFVAPEA SM Jahangir Hossain said the Association has already requested the Biman Bangladesh Airlines to start special air cargo service which could help boost the exports.
He said the demand for Bangladeshi produces is high this year in the global market but we couldn't fetch it amid higher air freight charges.
He said vegetable exports was only worth $7.0 million in July this fiscal year (FY) which was $ 19 million in the corresponding period of the last FY.
The country exported veggie, fruits, flower, foliage, tobacco, etc. worth $ 862 million in the FY 2019-20 which was $ 908 million in the previous FY, according to Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) of Bangladesh.